The International Energy Agency’s latest annual renewables report claims global installations of clean energy could deliver as much as additional 1.3TW of clean energy by 2023, more than the whole current generation capacity of the EU.
While this prediction is only one scenario, even the agency’s more cautious forecast predicts global renewable energy capacity to grow by 1TW. The rising popularity of solar power and more accommodating government policies are cited as driving factors for the growth of clean power.
Government support and developments in market design were identified as crucial to ensuring the continued growth of renewables.
The agency said that over the next five years declining costs of solar, wind and hydro technologies mean they will continue to outpace natural gas and coal. These renewable energy sources will expand their share of global power output to 30% by 2023.
Hydropower is predicted to increase by 12% over the next five years, remaining the largest renewable electricity generation source. Wind will increase its share of energy output to 7%, rising by two thirds, while solar will triple and overtake bioenergy as the third largest source of renewable energy. The report forecasts that solar PV will expand by almost 600GW – more than all other renewable power technologies combined, or twice Japan’s total capacity.
Renewable growth will be largely driven by China, which is predicted to be responsible for 41% of expansion. The nation is due to add 438GW of clean energy to its mix and overtaking the EU to become the world’s largest green energy consumer.
Global energy sourced from coal is predicted to decline from the current level of 27% to 22% in 2040, as nations move towards a clean-energy system. However, Asia’s continued reliance on coal means it will still be the largest power source in the world.
Bioenergy was termed the ‘blind spot’ of the renewable world, despite the fact that it made up half of all clean energy consumed in 2017. It was highlighted as an important area for investment due to its potential uses in the heat and transport sectors.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol said: “Modern bioenergy is the overlooked giant of the renewable energy field”
He added that bioenergy’s share of global renewable consumption “is about 50% today – in other words as much as hydro, wind, solar and all other renewables combined.
“We expect modern bioenergy will continue to lead the field and has huge prospects for further growth. But the right policies and rigorous sustainability regulations will be essential to meet its full potential.”
The agency noted that only bioenergy that works to curb life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions without having any negative social, environmental or economic impacts should be included in the world’s future energy system.
The report also found global carbon dioxide emissions from energy use rose by 1.6% in 2017.
The agency’s next global report will be published in November.